Education & Workforce Development and Environment

NOTIONS: Gore's film has lessons we should heed

June 26, 2006

Last Friday night, my friend Cheri and I decided to go out to dinner and a movie. The film we chose wasn't playing near our downtown home. So we had to get in the car and drive 14 miles northwest to Traders Point.

As we sat outside at Abuelo's eating and talking, we watched hundreds of cars, trucks and SUVs pass by on 86th Street. This led to a conversation about the environment and the need for mass transit in Indianapolis.

So we changed our minds about which movie we wanted to see. Instead of the originally intended comedy, we opted for what some critics have called the scariest movie of the summer: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

We had put the movie section of Friday's Indianapolis Star in the car before leaving home, so we climbed back in and checked the theater listings.

"An Inconvenient Truth" was showing at only one Indianapolis theater- the new Keystone Art Cinema.

So we drove 11 miles east to Keystone at the Crossing, parked on the bridge level of the garage nearest the theater and bought our tickets at the box office.

Al Gore taught us about global warming. He showed us lots of film and statistics to illustrate his points. In between, we learned about some personal events that have shaped his thinking and shaken his life.

Sometimes, believe it or not, Al Gore is funny. Nearly always, "An Inconvenient Truth" is persuasive. And yes, the film is frightening in its implications for us, our children and their children.

We saw pictures of glaciers in the recent past, and melted remnants now.

We saw footage of ice receding rapidly at Antarctica and the North Pole.

We saw charts and graphs showing relatively consistent global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Then we saw dramatic spikes in recent years, and potentially catastrophic spikes predicted for the near future.

We learned how foreign cars are more fuel-efficient than American cars. And how the countries where those cars are manufactured insist on this. And how American car companies are opposing tougher efficiency standards in court. And how this is costing American workers jobs because our vehicles can't compete in the global marketplace.

Al Gore told us that higher temperatures are causing more hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons.

He said they're contributing to the extinction of animal species.

He said they're contributing to the spread of deadly diseases.

Al Gore also explained who's too blame-how the world population is mushrooming. How all these people are putting more pressure on our planet. How the U.S. consumes more fossil fuels per capita than many regions of the world combined. How we and Australia are the only nations that haven't ratified a big environmental treaty.

Toward the end of the film, Al Gore told us that it's not too late to do something. He used more charts and graphs to show the positive impact that simple lifestyle changes could have.

He also used the example of ozone layer improvements, in which the United States led a global effort to cut down on chlorofluorocarbons to help close a dangerous hole in the Earth's atmosphere.

While the credits rolled, we got tips on what we could do to help alleviate global warming. There were Web sites to visit, simple actions to take and, of course, a request to tell other people to see Al Gore's movie.

We left the theater ranting about all the bad things we're doing to the planet.

Then we hopped in the car, drove two miles to the Wild Oats supermarket where Cheri likes to get her vitamins. Then we drove 12 miles home.

The next day, when my sons wanted to drive the three-quarters of a mile to their favorite restaurant for lunch so they could return home quickly to watch World Cup soccer, I told them no, we'd walk.

And that night, when it was hot and muggy and we considered driving the mile to Circle Centre for an early Father's Day celebration, I said no, we'd walk.

And for several days, when people asked what I'd done on the weekend, I told them I'd seen Al Gore's movie and that they should, too.

But some of them stared at me crosseyed, as if to say, "Why would I do that?" And others said they didn't like Al Gore and didn't care to hear what he had to say. And others said they just couldn't deal with big issues like this; they preferred escapist entertainment, not education, at the movies. And others said Al Gore just exaggerates; it's not as bad as he says.

And it all left me feeling sorry and sad: For Al Gore, for the planet, and for the people and animals who must live in the wake of our careless apathy.



Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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